Discovery of a New Spinosaurid Dinosaur Species Sheds Light on Their Origin and Evolution

Life reconstruction of Protathlitis cinctorrensis. Image credit: Oscar Sanisidro / Grup Guix.

A new genus and species of spinosaurid dinosaur being named Protathlitis cinctorrensis has been discovered by Dr. Andrés Santos-Cubedo from the Universitat Jaume I and colleagues.

The newly-discovered dinosaur species lived in what is now Spain during the Early Cretaceous epoch, between 127 and 126 million years ago.

Named Protathlitis cinctorrensis, it belonged to the diverse dinosaur family Spinosauridae.

“Spinosaurids comprise of different groups of dinosaurs that are often large, stand on two feet, and are carnivorous,” Dr. Santos-Cubedo and colleagues said.

“Well-known examples of spinosaurids include Spinosaurus and Baryonyx.”

“It is thought that spinosaurids may have originated in Europe and then migrated to Africa and Asia, but evidence of their existence in Spain is mostly based on fossilized tooth remains.”

A right jaw bone, one tooth and five vertebrae of Protathlitis cinctorrensis were recovered from the Arcillas de Morella Formation at the locality of Cinctorres, Castellón, Spain.

“Based on the remains, we estimate that this individual is around 10 to 11 m long,” the paleontologists said.

“We compared the specimen to data on other spinosaurids to determine its evolutionary relationship to other species.”

The discovery of Protathlitis cinctorrensis suggests that the Iberian Peninsula may have been a diverse area for medium-to-large bodied spinosaurid dinosaurs and sheds light on the origin and evolution of spinosaurids.

The authors propose that this species may indicate that spinosaurids appeared during the Early Cretaceous in Laurasia — a large area of land in the northern hemisphere — with two sub-groups of species occupying western Europe.

“The establishment of this new European species seems to confirm that spinosaurids appeared during the Early Cretaceous in Laurasia, with the two subfamilies occupying the western part of Europe,” they said.

“Later, during the Barremian-Aptian, they migrated to Africa and Asia, where they would diversify.”

“In Europe, baryonychines were dominant, while in Africa, spinosaurines were the most abundant.”


The study was published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

A. Santos-Cubedo et al. 2023. A new spinosaurid dinosaur species from the Early Cretaceous of Cinctorres (Spain). Sci Rep 13, 6471; doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-33418-2